Release of News Click Editor Prabir Purkayastha Upholds Free Media

Prabir Purakayastha

The Bench of  India’s  Supreme Court  terming arrest of journalist and founder of Newsclick Mr. Prabir Purkayastha by Delhi Police as  invalid under  unlawful Unlegl Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and ordered his immediate  release. Justice, Mehta, while deliberating said , before arrest the grounds of arrest should be communicated in written form and  not doing so is a violation of  Article 22 (5) of Constitution. The Court further  said, the right to get informed about grounds of  arrest and right to  consult a lawyer is a fundamental right and  violation of  this under Indian Constitution robs  the individual of  liberty. Mr. Purakayastha walked  out of jail  on the late evening of May 16th, 2024 is  welcome.

Mr. Purakayastha was arrested on October  2023,  on the accusation of receiving funds from  China to  promote anti-national propaganda through  digital media. Later a 800 page  long charge sheet was  submitted to court based on  allegations by certain individual, but lacking  any ground evidence. Followed by arrest,  Several journalists, technicians and  content contributors were raided, searched and technical gadgets sized by police. The FIR  lodged by Delhi police accused  Newsclick and Mr. Purakayastha  of attempts to  depict  Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as “ not parts of India”,  underscoring  government’s efforts of COVID, tacitly defending  agiatations  against Citizenship Act, farmers  struggle against  three farm laws and  and  defending Chinese telecommunication  firms.

These allegations are base less devoid of any ground evidence. Nowhere in published material in Newsclick there were attempts to neither  compromise with territorial integrity of India, discrediting COVID efforts,  nor defending the Chinese telecommunication firms. Yes,  in various  articles the  draconian Citizenship Act (CAA)  and    inhuman oppression of  justful farmers  struggle waged against  monopoly of corporate houses to  takeover  agriculture sector were supported. Author of this write-up, also in some of his articles published in Newsclick vividly depicted the rural distress and supported farmers struggle.  Allegations  levelled by Police  in chargesheet are baseless lacking any evidence and aimed at  suppressing freedom expression and curtail the free Press.

Of late, in India freedom of  journalists and  independent media are targeted so as to silence dissent. Dissent is an essential ingredient in democracy. Not surprisingly India today ranks  159th in World Press Freedom Index, 2024. Is a  clear case of declining space for free speech in India.  Release of Newsclick editor Prabir Purkayastha is   welcome and upholds  the struggle to restore  free speech and Independent media.

 Dr. Soma Marla, a retired Principal Scientist (Genomics), Indian Council for Agricultueral research, Delhi.

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